The False Dichotomy of Morality and Self-Interest as Determinants of Action: Facilitating Intervention against Genocide

Michelle Ennis Soreth


Under the contingencies operating in the current political climate, appeals to aid other nations are often made from two positions that are cast as opposing determinants of action. The first involves an appeal to the moral values of an intervening nation that supports human rights and social justice while the second involves an appeal to national interest in that action is only taken if it benefits the intervening nation. In the behavior analytic system, moral values are not viewed as causal entities, and as a result the behavior analytic standpoint dissolves the dichotomy that casts acting out of self-interest and acting out of altruistic morality as opposites. The resulting re-conceptualization focuses on the consequences of action, allowing for better accuracy in predicting the conditions under which nations are likely to act in the aid of others while providing a more effective vehicle for promoting human rights worldwide.


Human Rights, Genocide, Morality, Values, Selection by Consequences, Altruism, Self-interest, Interlocking Contingencies, Humanitarian Intervention

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Published by the University of Illinois at Chicago Library

And Behaviorists for Social Responsibility